Over the next 10 years, city planners hope to make Minneapolis more accessible for cars, bikes and buses with the Downtown Transportation Action Plan. Working together, the city of Minneapolis, Metro Transit, the Metropolitan Council, Hennepin County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation will examine specific areas for improvement, from bicycle lanes to one-way streets.
Some overall goals of the project include maintaining walkability; increasing the use of public transit; providing a framework for population growth; strengthening neighborhood linkages; and creating a multimodal system that serves pedestrians, bikers, transit commuters, drivers and freight carriers.
Here are highlights of the plan:
Many Downtown streets will function differently as a result of the Action Plan. Marquette Avenue and 2nd Avenue South will be completely rebuilt with wider sidewalks and double-width bus lanes that allow for easier passing. Thoroughfares such as Hennepin Avenue and 1st Avenue North will turn into two-way roads. Officials are also working to create or relocate highway ramps in and out of Downtown.
To help reduce traffic congestion, the plan will
promote alternative modes of transportation such as carsharing, carpooling, telecommuting, and riding scooters and motorcycles. Such drivers could be eligible for free parking spaces on the street and in municipal ramps.
The plan also examines the possibility of change in areas such as curbside usage, lmetered parking and truck loading. Possible solutions to congestion due to on-street parking include widening the sidewalks at bus stops and intersections to create pockets of parking; only allowing the use of curbside lanes during off-peak hours, evenings and weekends; and rethinking meter fees.
Cyclists will see some new bike paths under the Action Plan. Hennepin Avenue will retain its centered bike lanes, but the path will extend along Loring Park and across the river into Northeast. Bikers along Marquette Avenue and 2nd Avenue South will share a lane with buses during off-peak periods, and can ride on Nicollet Mall anytime, though they won’t have a designated lane. A new path will go up on 3rd Street South, connecting to the trail along Hiawatha LRT, and a trail along 14th, 15th, and 16th Street will connect Oak Grove, Loring Park, and Elliot Park.
The plan will also consider adding a bike lane to any street undergoing seal-coating or re-striping, depending on its width. Certain one-way streets may be wide enough for a single, one-direction bike lane without hindering parking or bus lanes.
Increasing the accessibility and functionality of public transit is crucial to the plan, but certain busy streets need more help than others. Marquette Avenue and 2nd Avenue South, for example, will get two side-by-side bus lanes to facilitate easier passing. The passing lane will be for buses and, during off-peak periods, bikers. Most north-south express routes will also be moved to Marquette and 2nd, reducing congestion on streets like Hennepin Avenue.
One-third of the buses along Nicollet Mall will be free during peak periods — one-half during nonpeak hours. Buses that stop in front of Convention Center are free; the rest will still be 50 cents. All of the express buses on Nicollet Mall will move to 2nd and Marquette, and only local buses will remain. By 2012, Metro Transit hopes to have 100 percent hybrid-electric buses along the Mall, which produce about 90 percent fewer emissions than the current diesel vehicles. City Council members have asked Metro Transit and the city to accelerate the plan, if possible, to bring about faster pollution relief.
Putting the plan into action
The first phase of the 10-year plan, from 2007–2008, is called “Clean-Green-Seen.” It will focus on making the city more attractive and safe for pedestrians by “greening” storefronts and sidewalks; working with the police to enhance personal safety; improving intersection safety; cleaning up the sidewalks; encouraing employers to promote alternative modes of transportation; and making sure that redevelopment projects meet the city’s new design guidelines. Some bigger changes, like turning Hennepin Avenue into a two-way street, will take place in the 2009–2010 time frame.
Contact Mary O’Regan at email@example.com or 436-5088.